Statement by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Speakes on the United States Antisatellite Weapons Program

March 28, 1986

The President has expressed deep concern that Congressmen Aspin and Brown have decided to oppose the continuation of the only antisatellite (ASAT) program the United States now has nearing deployment that can offset the Soviet monopoly on ASAT capability that has existed for several years.

While the President is also concerned about program costs and technical problems, he has determined that the U.S. ASAT program should go forward as a key, effective element of our deterrence. Many of the problems in the program, as Congress knows, are due to Congress' own prohibition against testing and other congressional program adjustments. A prompt lifting of the congressional prohibition on testing would enable us to bring our ASAT program to operational readiness at the least possible cost.

Unilateral actions such as this undermine the position of our negotiators in Geneva and make it substantially more difficult, if not impossible, to reach verifiable and equitable agreements with the Soviets. The protection of our satellites throughout the world depends on a clear understanding by our adversaries that they cannot destroy our space systems with impunity in times of crisis.

These U.S. systems that are threatened are the systems that protect the lives of our men and women deployed throughout the world. Should deterrence fail, our ASAT program would be critical to deny any adversary the use of space-based systems used to target our land and sea forces. The President will be working closely with the Congress in the days ahead to assure that systems that protect our vital interests such as the U.S. ASAT programs are not canceled.